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BREAKING: University updates mask requirement: KN95, N95 or KF94 masks now required indoors

Previous guidelines told students KN95 masks were “expected,” but not required

American University updated its mask guidelines, confirming that students and faculty are now required to wear KN95, N95 or KF94 masks indoors for the spring 2022 semester, a University spokesperson told The Eagle Thursday.

The University’s previous guidelines said that students were “expected” — but not required — to wear KN95, N95 or KF94 masks. University Spokesperson Elizabeth Deal shared the updated guidance in an email to The Eagle.

“AU will require KN95, N95, or KF94 masks indoors. Given that KN95, N95, KF94 offer the highest level of protection, the university is requiring all members of our community when on campus, including classrooms, offices, and any of our facilities to wear these masks. If you need one, please pick up [at] the distribution points across campus,” Deal wrote.

AU’s Campus Life Instagram account announced on Jan. 18 that the University will provide students with free KN95 masks over the course of the spring semester. Students will be able to get one KN95 mask per week from five different locations on campus.

Vice President of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence Fanta Aw said in a forum Tuesday that enforcement of the mask requirement will be a “shared community responsibility.”

“The idea that there will be folks who are patrolling at all times is simply not realistic,” Aw said.

Deal also confirmed in an email to The Eagle that students are not allowed to eat or drink in class, and should step into the hall outside of the classroom to do so. Faculty are required to wear masks while teaching.

While masks are required in residence halls, roommates do not need to mask while in their rooms.

What is a KN95 Mask?

Standard cloth masks are generally less effective than medical masks like KN95 masks, according to a 2020 CDC study. KN95 masks are not considered negative-pressure respirators, but are considered safer than both cloth and surgical masks. KN95 masks don’t require a fit test prior to wear, so they are more accessible to students than N95 masks, according to the University of Louisville. This makes them slightly less safe for medical settings, but preferable for everyday interactions. KN95s are reusable if properly cared for.

Getting masks on campus

Students will be able to give their name and AUID number at buildings designated for mask distribution and will receive one mask every week. In an email to The Eagle, Deal said that these masks will be distributed in addition to those already distributed to staff with a physical presence on campus, and will be available to all community members. 

Masks will be available at Bender Library, Mary Graydon Center, the School of International Service, the Spring Valley Building and Washington College of Law during their respective hours of operation. 

Readily available KN95 masks are one of University’s preparations to return to in-person operations for the spring semester, including the requirement that students wear KN95s or N95s over other types of masks. 

Student Government President Chyna Brodie said she pushed this initiative because KN95 masks “aren’t cheap.”

“It’s just a much better mask in order to prevent the spread of COVID so I think every student should be able to have access to that,” Brodie said in an interview with The Eagle. “Students shouldn’t have to come out of pocket for something which the University can provide.”

Brodie encouraged her fellow students to keep vulnerable populations in mind and exercise caution in their decision-making once in-person operations resume.

“I’m very specific with what I’m promising students, because I’m fighting for that, and that’s something I think I can actually make happen,” Brodie said. “So I hope ultimately, through the KN95 masks, students feel more comfortable and able to have longer conversations with students and ultimately more prepared for the spring 2022 semester.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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